County eyes horse rescue

Mary Perham

A Steuben County committee wants to know why it took Finger Lakes SPCA Animal Cruelty Officer Scott Mazzo more than eight months to rescue two neglected horses in the Town of Thurston.

“What we want is a timeline of what happened,” said county Legislator Thomas Ryan, R-Canisteo, chairman of the Agriculture, Industry and Planning Committee. “We need an explanation of what transpired.”

Ryan first raised the issue of the neglected horses in April 2011, after receiving complaints from Town of Thurston officials, including the town’s Dog Control Officer Randy Akins.

At the time, Akins claimed Mazzo had done very little in response to complaints the horses and other animals were not properly cared for while the owners were vacationing in Florida.

According to county records, Mazzo met with Ryan and county Administrator Mark Alger in the spring and assured them he would look into the matter.

However, the SPCA did not take the horses into custody until late November, after area residents mounted a strong public protest about the horses’ deteriorating condition. Residents said the horses were too fragile to survive the winter.

“The thing is, Sheriff Ordway was about ready to go in himself, under the Hornell Humane Society,” Ryan said Monday. “The SPCA beat him by a day.”

One of the rescued horses, Blaze, had to be euthanized two days he was rescued. SPCA officials said in December the second horse, Reddy Two, is improving. Reddy Two is one of 84 abused and neglected horses rescued three years ago from a Troupsburg breeding farm.

After an investigation, Mazzo on Dec. 27 charged Kristen M. Ross and Robert J. Ross, of 317 S. Hill Road, Thurston, with two counts each of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

In the past, law enforcement and other animal control officials have said Mazzo has a large area to cover and investigate complaints. Current state Agriculture and Markets laws also make it difficult to charge and enforce laws governing the humane treatment of animals, according to law officials.

Ryan said he has no idea what factors were involved in the rescue and subsequent charges against the Rosses.

“I don’t know,” Ryan said. “That’s what we want to find out.”

Finger Lakes SPCA officials did not return The Leader’s call last Monday.